Best way to organize a Vintage collection

I'm sure this topic is pretty well covered elsewhere, but I am guessing a lot of people here don't play all formats, so I wanted a Vintage-centric opinion.

So this is something I have been wrestling with lately, as I hate buying products I won't use, and I want to get it right once and for all.

I only have Vintage cards, Old School cards, and "investment cards." Investment cards would be cards I don't need, but don't want to sell just yet (example: Chains, Nether Void, reserve list stuff, etc).

I'm likely going to use 12 pocket padfolios (Star City makes a nice one, as does FOUR). Color coded would be nice. This way I can have complete playsets, and I can get rid of extraneous stuff. For some reason, I hate having extra Magic cards I won't use.

At first I was going to do it by color, but then is seems annoying to have Ancient Grudges next to Arabian Kird Apes. Further issues are that there are sooooooo many more playable lands, artifacts and blue cards in Vintage and Old School than other colors. I put all my old school cards in a FOUR padfolio, and ended up only needing a few pages for White, Black, and Red. So I am not sure I could justify a full padfolio for just red. Not to mention, doesn't seem very efficient to have Old School next to Vintage, when I want to build a new deck.

Any thoughts? Have 1-2 binders for all Old School only cards? Use mini colored binders?

What do you categorize by? Color? Rarity? Deck archetype?

last edited by joshuabrooks

My categories go 20 years back in time, when I had like 200 cards, mixed in English and Spanish.

First, I separate cards by color/type: blue, white, black, red, green, artifacts, multicolor (including split cards), lands
Then, I separate for every category in creatures, instants, sorceries, enchantments, planeswalkers
Next, I separate every category for its casting cost, from lower (and easier) to higher. 2U is before 1UU, for example, but UU before 2U.
And finally, for cards with same type and cost, I priorize them by "quality" as I understand it. Brainstorm before ponder, ponder before steel sabotage, sabotage before unsummon...

Not the best way to classify cards, but it's pretty fast to search for a card, specially if you own different versions of the same card.

Note: there are nasty exceptions, as colorless cards that have a color in the casting cost, or color artifacts. Sh*t happens...

EDIT: Of course, I use 2 shoe boxes for my collection, no binders. In fact I have more shoeboxes with cards, including the first and original one (Converse makes very nice shoeboxes, it's really well after 20 years lol), but all cards I consider playables fit in 2 shoeboxes. There is a third box for several casual decks that don't share cards with my vintage choices (elves, casual affinity, casual monored, casual monoblue... and few more). Perfect decks to introduce friends in the basics of MTG 🙂

last edited by xouman

This would have to be changed a bit to adjust to your standards, but here we go:

I have my collection broken down by color, then organized by converted mana cost, alphabetically. Some people break things down by sets, but while I would have known all the set symbols for all released sets 15 years ago, we have now hit the point of no return. I can't possibly remember which set many cards are from anymore (especially some of the random Shop bots). I may not, for example, remember that Steel Hellkite was printed in Scars of Mirrodin, but I will always remember that it's an artifact that costs six mana.

As the collection grew, it went from one binder to two. One binder is just artifacts. The second binder is colored spells and lands. Given that the average Vintage pilot doesn't have a collection as artifact-based as mine, I'd expect that colors would have to be split, and artifacts would have a far smaller section of one binder.

I only own cards that I play.
Everything is double sleeved.
I only play vintage, and legacy (every now and then when I cannot get a vintage fix).
Almost everything is stored in 1000 count boxes.

Cards are separated by colour: blue, black, red, green, white, artefact, basic land, non-basic land, dual lands, fetch lands, multi-colour + colourless + hybrid colour. Cards are then sorted alphabetically.

I then have several deck boxes that I classify as: save in case of an emergency. Their contents are normally $600+ cards. The number value tends to vary a little (sometimes sentiment comes into the picture too).

I have binders that would be organized by color, with oldschool vintage and legacy in their own sections if I wasnt playing as much.

I like to switch up decks and play with a lot of my stuff so the binders are mostly empty with everything double sleeved and in deck boxes

My very cool, very Republican father in law bought us a little, fireproof safe not so long ago. I keep the expensive cards and any decks that are using them in there over night. It really puts my mind at ease, mostly about the potential for fire.

I have a binder for each block. With each binder, all cards are organized first by color and then by creature or non-creature. I default to putting cards into the binder for the block from which they were first printed. So, for example, if I need a Storm Crow, I open up the Ice Age block binder. Then, I flip to Blue, and then to the creatures. There, I can find at least a play set of the powerful bird.

I also have separate binders for more valuable rates. These are the thin nine-pocket binders. I have one for each color, one for artifacts, two for lands, and a second binder for blue. There I can find cards like Mana Drain and most of the cards I use in Burn and other commonly played staples.

Finally, at any given time, I have around a dozen decks built in different formats. Right now, I have a Vintage blue deck, a Vintage MUD deck, and a Vintage Eldrazi deck. I have those, alongside a number of Legacy and Modern and EDH decks.

Right now I have an OldSchool binder (mainly because I hold my Legends/Arabian/Antiquities/The Dark collection there too). So it has 1-of each of those sets and the expensive playble duplicate OldSchool cards (like the Juzams, P9, etc).

Then I have another binder for the rest of my collection, which holds everything playable non-olschool. FoW, Jaces, Tangle Wires, eldrazi whatever.

I prefer having non-fixed binder, so I can add and remove sheets (I also hate binders that have pocket with side-openings, so I wouldn't recommend those).

Then I have a Holiday Giftbox for the junkier stuff that I still play (Commander bulk, etc) and a Fat Back box that does the same for OldSchool.

Why do people prefer binders to boxes? Is it just the convenience factor of being able to flip through them? I've been meaning to do some card reorganizing for a while. I have been thinking that putting my perfect fitted cards into boxes would cause less wear than paging through them. It also doesn't seem that inconvenient to go through the boxes if you have a sufficient number of labelled dividers.

@diophan not to say binders cant spill, though the ones with (what I always just called) troll and toad pages are nearly impossible for cards to slip out. Maybe I am just clumsy, but If i have a box of cards, I will find a way to play 52 pick-up. I am organized but not obsessively so, so even if I spent hours organizing a box, and it spills and falls out of order, well that's it for me, consider that box a mess going forward.

@diophan I have card in boxes (Fat packs and Gift Boxes) but I always feel they keep rubbing against the box and that wears them down a little. I don't know, if feel very unprotected to me.


Boxes are more compact and portable.

Binders, easier to flip through and read the cards if you're searching for deck tech or just refreshing your memory. I use the BCW binders which have a zipper.

last edited by ydl

My collection is pretty diffuse - tend to keep the live decks in deck boxes, and use ultra pro divided boxes for taking small pool of cards for last minute adjustments (plus anything people have asked me to bring to trade/pick up from sale) Bulk of collection is kept between booster boxes (either by rarity and colour, but more commonly the popular cards from a set/block get their own slot. Go to cards for legacy and vintage are kept in (felt lined) drawers or long boxes such as the multiverse boxes (the one that contained Visions preview cards along with misc foreign language boosters.) I tend to keep deck elements together, with lesser used (mainly older) cards simply by colour.

Overall, most people would be horrified at the lack of organisation, but I can usually put my hand to cards quite easily, as I just know where they are. Did have a worry the other day, set of beta bolts had fallen flat on the bottom of the ultra pro divided box and because it was a smoked one, they evaded me for about half an hour. They were exactly whre I though they were, just horizontal instead of vertical.

I find it quite interesting doing it this way, as leafing through for cards can remind you of options you've not played for years that may get a new lease of life.

Edit - oh yes, forgot to mention, I use old commons or basics to act as dividers and protectors for ends of boxes.

last edited by portland

My cards are stored in 3200-count boxes, sorted by color (2 rows for each color, 1 row each for colorless, multicolored and land), then alphabetically, with dividers A-Z. Playables (ie, everything I’ve ever sleeved up) are kept in tight-fit sleeves, and all copies of a card go in one penny sleeve (usually max 4, more for stuff like Lightning Bolt and Brainstorm).

The reason I’ve gone for boxes instead of binders is ease of organization — I want to know immediately where I can find a card, and I don’t want to re-organize everything every time a new set come out.

My collection is tiny, I only keep what I use. I have a "memories" binder in my gun safe that holds cards that bring me good memories over the years. Past that I own a "playbook" that houses cards for Legacy Death and Taxes, Vintage Eldrazi, some playables for each deck and my 93/94 deck. I have a binder of 95/96 staples for that casual format and a few decks built. That is all.

I have cards in binders sorted by format and color (Dual Lands, Fetchlands, Shocklands, Manlands, W, U, R, B, G, Artifacts, Legends, Multicolored cards, Other Lands).

Then I have cards in boxes where I have cards that I use more often or there are parts of decks that are sleeved so I wouldn't need to unsleeve/sleeve them each time I would decide to play with them. Those cards in binders I don't usually touch much. but it is easier to find single card there than in a box full of cards let's say blue. I do not organize cards I play by name/type or whatever so it means I always have to go through all the cards of given color/deck whatever. This is due to the fact that I rather go through 700 cards than putting a card at its correct place each time (and then finding it fast).

The boxes I use were especially done for Magic cards. So you can easily go through them without damaging the cards.

Lately I have also sleeved basics in those boxes. I used to take basics from my Vintage Cube but then sometimes ran into problems of not having enough Islands while drafting. Having few basics around helps.

I envy all you guys that are capable to keep things in order and sorted by type/name etc.

(+I have a binder with all expensive cards that were laying around, mostly vintage and legacy staples. and these are in total disarray)

last edited by stsung

Following this thread I have another question for people here. I don't have any children, but one of my fears if I ever have any will be how to keep cards safe from a little kid to preserve their integrity.

Do you put them in a high place? Under key? Do you teach them that cards are not toys? Have you ever experienced card destruction by them?


I would give them a lecture similar to the one I would give about what to do if you found a gun, then I'd place them somewhere high up, perhaps under direct lock and key, but more likely just somewhere that has enough barriers that it is less likely to be an issue.

@xouman I have a 22 month old son. My cards are in drawers that are currently too heavy for him to open. At some point this will change, hence I will adapt too. Not leaving cards out minimises risk.

One of my friends had a JTMS mauled by his son. Outside of that, I have not first hand heard of any incidents.

@rbartlet I have a three-year-old and luckily he’s pretty careful with my stuff, but he’s had a lecture about daddy’s stuff not being toys—after he managed to pry open a deck box and was playing with a Lotus and some duals. Now I keep my Lego next to my cards. That stuff is technically also off limits, but I’d much rather he’d play with Lego than with my cards…

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